How are the Bee Pollinators Doing around the World - Insights and Challenges

Program Chairs: Hongmei Li-Byarlay and Li Tian

Insect pollinators (managed and wild) are very important for our ecosystem, agriculture and food production. However, we are facing a crisis of a decline in pollinators. By studying the diversity, behavior, ecology, evolution, genetics, physiology, pathogens, parasites, and disease of pollinators, we will be able to help to improve pollinator health and conservation.


Plenary Speakers

Bee Diversity Monitoring Network in China
There has been a rapid progress on bee taxonomy since Prof. Yan-Ru WU's return to the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Most taxa except for a few genera were reviewed or revised by Dr. Ze-Qing NIU and collaborators. However, there are many more species diversity to discover and describe to science. Besides, there are great demand from both agriculture and forestry to understand natural history of bees. In recent years, we developed integrative taxonomy to combine natural history, DNA sequences and bee-plant interactions etc. before we organized the Special Committee on Pollinator Insects. Also, basing on programs to investigate bees in East China and Himalaya regions, we also proposed the Bee Diversity Monitoring Network in China. We encourage researchers or parataxonomists to use Malaise Traps and Nest Traps to sample bees in local regions and share their discoveries via social media including WeChat software. DNA taxonomy helped a lot to estimate insect diversity including bee fauna in certain area. In nest traps, we can find out only solitary bee species, but also their natural history and quantify bee-plant interactions. We expect to establish the network to better understand bee biodiversity and pollination ecosystem functions in China.

Dr. Chao-Dong Zhu
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing, China

Dr. Chao-Dong ZHU is an entomologist, working on bees and parasitoid wasps at the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Before BEF projects, he has been mainly working on taxonomy, with more interests in developing protocols to promote insect species delimitation. Now, he’s collaborating with ecologists to study species interactions between solitary bees and plants basing on the Bee Diversity Monitoring Networks, China.

At the same time, he’s teaching systematic biology in both College of Biological Sciences and International College, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Currently, he’s chairing the Special Committee on Pollinator Insects, the Entomological Society of China.


Social vs. solitary - a comparison of the circadian clock in honeybess and mason bees
The circadian clock enables bees to foresee daily environmental changes and exactly time foraging flights to periods of floral resource availability. Honey bees and solitary bees have different strategies to cope with environmental influences and evolved different lifestyles. So far, clock research has focused on the honey bee clock, while there is only very little known about the circadian system of other bees. I will present our comparison of the circadian clock of social honey bees (Apis mellifera) and solitary mason bees (Osmia bicornis). Firstly, we characterized in detail the localization of the circadian clock in the bee brain via the expression pattern of two clock components, namely the clock protein PERIOD (PER) and the neuropeptide Pigment Dispersing Factor (PDF). Secondly, we monitored circadian activity rhythms of emerging and adult bees, either solitary or in social context of a miniature colony. In my presentation, I will target the question: What are possible evolutionary adaptations of the circadian clock to social lifestyle in honey bees?

Dr. Katharina Beer
University of Würzburg
Würzburg, Germany

Katharina Beer is a postdoc researcher at the Biocenter of the University of Würzburg (Germany). During her PhD studies, she worked in the laboratory of Prof. Charlotte Helfrich-Förster, University of Würzburg. In collaboration with Prof. Guy Bloch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel) she characterized the circadian clock network in the honey bee. She focused on the comparison of neuronal circadian network and circadian behavior in honey bees and solitary bees. Furthermore, she conducted research on the circadian system in aphids and Drosophila. After her graduation in 2018, she carried out a pilot project on the genetic manipulation of the circadian clock in honey bees. She focusses her research now on the functional analysis of circadian clock genes in honey bee time-place learning in the laboratory of Prof. Ricarda Scheiner, University of Würzburg.


Stingless bees (Meliponini) - the native highly eusocial bees of the New World: What can they teach us about honey bees?
Through their ecosystem services as pollinators to the majority of angiosperm plants, bees are crucial for ecosystem and biodiversity maintenance, as well as for crop production. The Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, is not only the champion for such services, but also one of the best studied insects, including its role as a model organism for insect sociality. Hence, not surprisingly, the honey bee was selected as one of the first insect genome sequencing projects. The only other bees that equal the honey bee in terms of their social organization are the stingless bees (Meliponini). Together with the orchid bees (Euglossini), the bumble bees (Bombini) and the honey bees (Apini) they form a monophyletic clade, the corbiculate bees. Actually, the stingless bees are the biologically and taxonomically most diverse group of social bees, comprising over 550 species distributed in more then four dozen genera. Stingless bees have a pantropical distribution, with their center of origin and diversity in South and Central America, and their biological diversity and species richness sets them in strong contrast to the honey bees, as the tribe Apini consists of only a single genus with not more than a dozen species.

Dr. Klaus Hartmann Hartfelder
Universidade de São Paulo
Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil

Klaus Hartfelder is a Full Professor at the Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo (FMRP-USP). He studied Biology at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, concluding with a Diploma (Master's) obtained in 1982, followed by a Doctoral degree in Zoology in 1986 from the same university, with a two-years stay (1983 and 1985) at the Departmento de Genética da Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo (FMRP-USP). After a postdoctoral period in Tübingen (1986-1989), he spent a year as postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, specializing in insect endocrinology. After returning to Tübingen as Assistant Professor (1991 – 1998) he obtained the Habilitation in 1993. While still in Tübingen he temporarily was the coordinator of the bilateral Pro Mata Project with the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul. In 1998 he made the definitive move to Brazil, first as Visiting Professor (CAPES/DAAD) from 1998-2003 at the Departamento de Biologia of the Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP-USP), and then accepting a position as Associate Professor at the Departamento de Biologia Celular e Molecular e Bioagentes Patogênicos da FMRP-USP, where he became Full Professor in 2013. After a four-year period as Head of the Department (2016-2020), he currently is the Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Genetics of FMRP-USP. With more than 100 publications that obtained more than 5,000 citations, he is the Assistant Editor of the journal Genetics and Molecular Biology published by the Brazilian Society of Genetics, and since 2003 he is Associate Editor of Apidologie (Springer). As President of the International Union of the Studies of Social Insects. (IUSSI) from 2014-2018 he organized the international congress of IUSSI for the first time in Latin America, in Guarujá, SP in 2018. International research collaborations are currently under way with colleagues from The University of Sydney, Australia, and two universities in Germany (Freiburg and Hohenheim). Interested in the genomics of social bees he participated in various large international consortia. He has experience in Developmental Biology and in Evolutionary Biology, with research projects focusing on the genomics and epigenetics of social bees, on regulatory pathways underlying caste development and the division of labor in social insects, and on insect endocrinology.

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